New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, made an urgent move on Friday by issuing an emergency public health order that suspends the right to carry guns in public for at least 30 days in Albuquerque and the surrounding Bernalillo County. The governor's decision was prompted by the recent surge in gun violence, including the tragic killing of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium earlier this week.
Governor Lujan Grisham acknowledged that she expects the order to face legal challenges but believes that she needed to take action in response to the alarming number of gun-related deaths in the area. In a statement, she expressed concern for the safety and well-being of New Mexicans, stating, "When New Mexicans are afraid to be in crowds, to take their kids to school, to leave a baseball game - when their very right to exist is threatened by the prospect of violence at every turn - something is very wrong."
The emergency order, classified as a public health measure, applies to both open and concealed carry in most public places, with the exception of police and licensed security guards. The restriction is specifically tied to the high threshold of violent crime rates that is currently only met by the Albuquerque area.
Violators of the order could face civil penalties and a fine of up to $5,000, according to the governor's spokeswoman, Caroline Sweeney. The responsibility of enforcing the order falls on the state police, although Governor Lujan Grisham acknowledged that not all law enforcement officials, including the district attorney for the Albuquerque area, agree with the decision.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen expressed his concerns about the order, citing potential conflicts with constitutional rights and the risks of prohibiting law-abiding citizens from their right to self-defense. However, he also stated that he is prepared to cooperate in addressing gun violence.
To emphasize the urgency of the situation, Governor Lujan Grisham cited several recent shootings in Albuquerque. She mentioned the tragic incident outside the Albuquerque Isotopes' field, where 11-year-old Froyland Villegas was killed and a woman critically wounded as they sat inside a vehicle that was sprayed with bullets. Another heartbreaking shooting occurred in August when 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego was shot and killed in her sleep during a home invasion. In yet another incident, a 14-year-old boy used his father's gun to shoot and kill his 13-year-old friend while they were at the boy's home in Taos County.
State Senator Greg Baca, the top-ranked Republican in the Senate, strongly denounced the governor's firearm suspension, criticizing it as targeting law-abiding citizens with an unconstitutional order. Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, on the other hand, praised the governor's decision as a necessary step to reduce gun violence, stating, "If it saves one life, then it's worth doing."
Governor Lujan Grisham has a history of signing bills that restrict gun access, including a "red flag" law in 2020 that allows law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. She also signed a ban on gun possession for individuals under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.
In addition to the emergency order, the governor directed state regulators to conduct monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide to ensure compliance with gun laws. The state Department of Health will also conduct a report on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals, including details such as age, race, gender, and ethnicity, as well as the brand and caliber of firearms involved.
While Governor Lujan Grisham expects legal challenges to her order, she remains determined to prioritize the safety of New Mexicans. "I welcome the debate and fight about how to make New Mexicans safer," she stated during a news conference, surrounded by law enforcement officials. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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